DESPICABLE ME 2 TRAILER #3: Selling what people want; using what works

Without offering an opinion on the quality of the film, other than it appears to be good enough (74% critics score; 87 % audience reaction on Rotten Tomatoes) to justify its popularity with the all-important family audience, I will say that the a/v marketing is both smart and comprehensive. On the official website you can watch 6 different 30 TV spots, 2 trailers, a teaser, a Kid’s Choice Salute spot, and several fan-made videos inspired by Gru, his minions, their music and a new chapter in the saga of a domesticated super-villain. The TV spots introduce characters and exploit site gags; the trailers explore story elements, while previewing the visual world and the slap-stick, sophomoric Minion humor; the clips frame representative (one hopes) dramatic/comedic moments. For a film composed of expected, even repeated, pleasures, the a/v marketing keeps faith with the content.

In this sequel to the wildly successful 2010 Despicable Me, Gru is impressed into service by the Anti-Villain-League, which solicits his expertise in order to address the predations of a new threat. Kristin Wiig provides the voice of agent Lucy Wilde, a capable and phlegmatic Anti-Villain-League operative, who will become a romantic interest of Gru’s (voiced by Steve Carrell).

But this trailer (although numbered “3,” it leads off the trailer cavalcade on the official site) is not really about story. It’s about animated pleasures, Minion-motivated physical comedy and puerile humor. Which is, perhaps, appropriate to the season of the year, the genre of the entertainment and the target of the marketing: families and kids.

As the trailer for a sequel, it’s counting on the fact that if you liked the “world” of the original film, you’ll probably like this one. And, given the cultural afterlife/resonance of the adorable, diminutive, naughty and energetic minions, it’s no surprise that they carry the burden of the comic appeals made in the film.

The trailer opens with Gru saying goodnight to his girls, one of whom (Margo, voice by Miranda Cosgrove) is on the cusp of teenage-dom and texting with a boy(?), while young Agnes (Elsie Fisher) remains blissfully innocent of the qualities and character of male sexuality, a topic that is of explicit concern to father Gru. It’s a sweet albeit knowing acknowledgement of fatherly apprehension and affection.

Next we meet taser-wielding Agent Wilde, who efficiently apprehends Gru and two minions who attempt his rescue. As drawn and voiced, Wilde seems almost blase, certainly unchallenged, by this assignment. Driving off the town pier, Wilde’s car converts into a submarine and she drives her captives to the under-water HQ of the Anti-Villain-League, where AVL director Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan) –cue Minion chuckle at his silly name– explains what Gru’s new mission will be.

As Gru boasts to his incredulous and impressed children, he is “really gonna save the world,” which means, happily, “cool cars, gadgets and weapons,” some of which are shown to us.

The 2:27 trailer, with a recurring music cue and percussive riff from Eminen’s 2002 hit “Without Me” (one of my favorites!), concludes with additional scenes of manic-Minion-slapstick. It’s really quite simple in structure; visually, the saturated colors, comic caricatures of people and minutely personalized Minion multitudes do the heavy lifting. Minions are what kids want to see and their sophomoric, potty humor is a safe and reliable deliverable.

The marketers clearly understand their fan base, as evidenced in the content of the trailer and in the prime positioning provided to fan-made-videos. Not every campaign is so fortunate in its materials and its intelligence. Not every campaign is confident enough, or experienced enough, to use what is all but guaranteed to deliver.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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